Third time win for Oracle Team USA in 35th America's Cup?

Emirates Team New Zealand, Land Rover BAR, Artemis Racing and SoftBank Team Japan all secured their progression through to the Louis Vuitton America's Cup Challenger Playoffs, while Groupama Team France bow out of the 35th America's Cup with their heads held high.

Emirates Team New Zealand seized the lead in the America's Cup qualifying round-robin with two impressive victories on Friday as underdogs Groupama Team France dropped out of contention.

But even if the French crew win that race, an inferior track record in the pre-event series means they can not beat the other crews seeking to challenge Oracle Team USA.

A poor tack cost Dean Barker's Japan more time and New Zealand were never threatened, winning by 51 seconds in a race that saw them up on their hydrofoils for 99.6 percent of the distance.

Sir Ben Ainslie's syndicate have already been beaten by the Kiwis this week, when a control system failure that affected the daggerboard prompted Ainslie to decide not to complete the race with Team NZ long-since finished.

The Team NZ choice leaves Sweden's Artemis Racing and SoftBank Team Japan as the other semi-final opponents.

Spithill continued to cause headaches for his Kiwi rival Barker at the America's Cup qualifier after their heated history on the water, where in 2013 the Aussie defeated the former Team New Zealand skipper at the last America's Cup. In other races, Land Rover BAR beat Team Japan and Artemis Racing beat Groupama Team France, which was eliminated Friday.

"Both times we've raced Team NZ they've made some pretty fundamental mistakes - at the start line today, and then at the top mark again, just like the first time we lined up", he said.

But the Japanese team chased them round the course on Bermuda's Great Sound and were penalised after a close call between the two speeding catamarans.

In the first round robin, Oracle beat Team New Zealand by six seconds.

"They're killing us, just killing us", Ainslie added as New Zealand, helmed by another Olympian Peter Burling, sailed into the distance across the crystal clear Bermudan waters.

"The (bonus) point could end up being incredibly important". That helped kill the drama in a rematch of the teams that met in the epic 2013 America's Cup match.

The victor will face Oracle, which is racing in the preliminaries even though its place in the final is guaranteed as the defending champion.

"What happened?" Ainslie asked of his crew after a calamitous manoeuvre early in their race against New Zealand which left the most successful Olympic sailor ever rattled. "We struggled in the light wind trying to get up on our foils, particularly downwind".

"There is definitely a lot of pressure on us", conceded Franck Cammas, Groupama Team France helmsman.

  • Julie Sanders